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We didn't get to see The Rock and BillG's X-box smackdown, but we did get to see plenty of new products that will be helpful whether you're starting to build your network, or already have one and are looking to upgrade it.  

In addition to coverage of new router and 802.11b wireless products, we'll be reporting on HomeRF and Bluetooth developments.  Power line networking ain't dead yet, either, and we'll tell you why.  We found a number of products designed to bridge the gap (didn't even know you had a gap, didya?) between your network and your home audio system(s) that we'll fill you in on, too.  We'll also tell you about the tablet products that we actually got to try, and a network storage device that we thought was pretty interesting.  Finally, we'll fill you in on the happenings in two-way satellite broadband.

Your mileage may vary!
All pricing and availability info that follows is the best info that we are able to get, and is subject to change.

Routers and Gateways and Platforms, Oh My!

 

Just before the show, we were tipped to Panasonic's entry into the Home Gateway market, the Concourse Broadband Networking Gateway. Available now for $299, it sports 10BaseT Ethernet and HomePNA2.0 LAN interfaces.  You can add 11Mbps wireless capability by adding a $199 radio card, but since Panasonic uses ShareWave's Whitecap standard (the same as the upcoming NETGEAR 11X series), you won't be able to use it with either 802.11b WiFi or 1.6Mbps HomeRF gear.

Panasonic Concourse Broadband Networking Gateway

 

3COM Home Wireless Gateway

Something you will be able to use with 802.11b products is 3COM's long-awaited Home Wireless Gateway.  Due to start shipping in Feb, it'll have an on-line price of $300-$325.

 

If you don't need wireless, you can go for 3COM's other new entry into the low-cost routing arena, the Home Ethernet Gateway. Although more nicely packaged, the 3C510's feature set is very similar to the Asante FriendlyNet/SMC Barricade 4 port routers.  Also available in Q1 2001, the Gateway will set you back about $130.

We also got a look at the Nokia MW1122 ADSL and MW1642 SDSL WLAN Gateways, but didn't do much digging since they have DSL WAN adapters.  2Wire's stand was continuously packed with folks checking out the new wireless versions of their Home Portals that we previously told you about.

 

Calling all ISPs...

The new development that we found in Routers and Gateways was that not all the vendors want you to buy their products... at least not you, the consumer, directly.  Their target buyer is your Service Provider, who they want to buy their products, and then resell them to you the same way you buy your cell phone... with their service bundled.

The most ambitious of these companies is UCentric, which was a Finalist in TechTV's "Best of CES" Home Automation and Networking category. Their Home Networking Platform consists of a Linux based OS, applications server, home networking applications, and hardware reference design.  They had a pretty impressive demo that showed the ability of their system to tie computers, televisions, phones, and audio systems into a home networking system via just about any interface that exists.  UCentric's system can support unified messaging (email, voicemail, instant messaging, callerID display), and web browsing on both computers and TVs.  It'll play MP3 audio through TVs, FM stereo receivers or computers, and MPEG2 video through TVs or computers, too!  (Home automation support is slated for future system releases.)  They even had a pretty sexy looking box that ISPs will be able to either resell or incorporate into their own design.  So far, they've signed NETGEAR and Cisco as partners with other announcements promised.

ShareGate also has a box, the DSL2000 Broadband Services Gateway, but their focus was more on their GateView Element Management System, which ISPs would use to manage the Gateways.  The DSL2000's specs weren't too shabby, with 10/100BaseT, HomePNA2.0, and USB LAN interfaces supported.  The DSL2000 can also be a "micro PBX" with up to 10 VoDSL extensions sharing 4 derived phone lines, in addition to its Internet sharing duties.

The folks at Home Wireless Networks will be happy to sell you their AirWay TransPort DSL/cable modem Gateway from their Web site, but primarily are looking to move product through OEMs and ISPs.  Backed by Lucent, but using the Intersil PRISM II chipset (!), they also have products that can create a wireless mini-PBX.  The phone products will share a dial-up Internet connection only, however.

Moving further down the Broadband Gateway food chain, we find DoBox.  Their product is software only and their pitch is to makers of Home Gateways, so it's not likely that you'll hear much about them unless they succeed in branding their platform (think "powered by DoBox") inside other companies' products.  The demo I saw showed the ability to set a user-based profile that specified access privileges by content, service, and time of day.  Content filtering is provided via a partnership with ah-ha.com.

USR rides again!

In case you didn't notice, U.S. Robotics was spun back out of 3COM in September 2000.  Since then, they've been pretty busy, and used CES to announce their wireless and broadband Internet product lines.  They'll be rolling out an ADSL USB modem and DOCSIS 1.0 Ethernet Cable modem in Q2 2001, as well as an ADSL Ethernet Router, and HomePNA based products.  I spent most of my time checking out their 802.11b wireless stuff, which should be available in Q1 2001.  The lineup includes an Access Point, PC card, PCI card, and various product bundles.  One unique product is a bundle (Model 2445) that contains a PCI card that has a cabled antenna.  Curiously, this version isn't available as a separate product, either in PCI form, or as just the PC card radio itself.  Note that the Access Point is essentially the same product that is available from SMC, Addtron, and others.  And, oh yeah, USR is still in the dialup modem game, with a full line of V92 modems planned.  You wouldn't know this from looking at their Web site, however!

Next: HomeRF developments



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